As with all forms of exercise, it is possible to injure yourself while practicing Pilates. This is a low-impact exercise, but improper form and over-exercising can lead to lasting injuries. Similar to yoga, Pilates injuries are rarely life-threatening, but they can persist for months after the initial injury. Here are a few common and dangerous Pilates injuries, as well as how to prevent them.
Cuts and Scrapes
Pilates reformers can be comfortable to lie on, but the machines are controlled with metal clasps and springs. This hardware is typically stored under the reformer, but old and unkempt equipment can still pose a risk. Before hopping on the Pilates reformer, check to make sure there are no metal spikes or clasps jutting out. If you see a potential problem, alert your instructor and ask to use a different machine.
To that end, clothing choice is key to preventing cuts and scrapes during Pilates. Avoid clothing with buckles, zippers, and belts – anything that may get stuck to the Pilates reformer. Instead, wear breezy, sweat-wicking materials without any metal or plastic closures. This will also help to improve your flexibility and comfort while going through the moves.
Muscle strains are the most common injuries Pilates practitioners experience. Overdoing exercises, or doing them improperly, can lead to strains in the back, legs, arms, chest, and neck. While these injuries are not always dangerous, they can be very painful – sometimes requiring a trip to the nearby Boulder urgent care office. To prevent this type of injury, avoid rushing or “powering” through a move that feels too difficult. These injuries occur when the athlete is tired and unable to do the exercises properly. To prevent muscle strains, try to understand your physical and mental limits in exercise. If you’re not doing the move correctly, it might be time to take a break.
While rare, Pilates can exacerbate something called a diaphragmatic rupture. Also known as a diaphragmatic injury, this is a tear in the diaphragm, which is the muscle across the bottom of the ribcage. The diaphragm plays a crucial role in breathing, which makes its rupture a life-threatening injury. In most cases, the muscle needs to be repaired surgically.
Diaphragmatic ruptures are usually associated with repeated abdominal trauma – something a football or rugby player might experience. But there have been a few cases where a diaphragmatic rupture is caused or complicated by Pilates. In one case study, researchers found that a 29-year-old woman arrived at the emergency room with severe abdominal pain that presented after deep breathing in a Pilates class. So, while rare, if somebody in your Pilates class experiences sudden abdominal pain, be sure they visit the emergency room as soon as possible. This is a spontaneous injury, meaning it may occur without warning or specific cause. Therefore, there are few ways to prevent diaphragmatic rupture in a Pilates setting.